From Mardi Gras to Rio's carnival, here's how the world celebrates pre-Lent festivities

From the carnival at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, this weekend is all about a global celebration of life observed in over 50 countries, often in the form of overindulgence and debauchery. But few know about the religious roots of these festivals, which is intended to be celebrations lasting for days or hours before the austere period of Lent begins.

Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday, is a period of repentance that symbolizes the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert to begin his period of ministry. It ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter.

Here are how a few carnivals are celebrated across the world.

Tenerife, Spain

TOPSHOT - A nominee for queen performs during the main stage of the Carnival of Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz de Tenerife on the Spanish Canary island of Tenerife, on February 07, 2018. The costumes are more than five meters high and over 80 kilos in weight. The event began on January 12 and finishes on February 18 with orchestras playing Caribbean and Brazilian rhythms throughout the festivities that range from elections for the Carnival Queen, the Junior Queen and the Senior Queen, to children and adult murgas (satirical street bands), comparsas (dance groups) and street performances. / AFP PHOTO / DESIREE MARTIN (Photo credit should read DESIREE MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images)

TOPSHOT - A nominee for queen performs during the main stage of the Carnival of Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz de Tenerife on the Spanish Canary island of Tenerife, on February 07, 2018. The costumes are more than five meters high and over 80 kilos in weight. The event began on January 12 and finishes on February 18 with orchestras playing Caribbean and Brazilian rhythms throughout the festivities that range from elections for the Carnival Queen, the Junior Queen and the Senior Queen, to children and adult murgas (satirical street bands), comparsas (dance groups) and street performances. / AFP PHOTO / DESIREE MARTIN (Photo credit should read DESIREE MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images)

The carnival celebration in the Spanish city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the most glamorous in the country with ornate and over-the-top costumes, attracting visitors and tourists from all over the world to the island city that is closer to Africa than Europe.

Barranquilla, Colombia

Participants in the Barranquilla Carnival in Barranquilla Colombia , Barranquilla Carnival is one of the biggest carnivals in the world. (Photo by: Kobby Dagan/VW Pics/UIG via Getty Images)

Participants in the Barranquilla Carnival in Barranquilla Colombia , Barranquilla Carnival is one of the biggest carnivals in the world. (Photo by: Kobby Dagan/VW Pics/UIG via Getty Images)

The Carnaval de Barranquilla in Colombia is the second largest carnival in the world. Its slogan is "those who live it are those who enjoy it." The festival originated at the meeting of European, African, and indigenous peoples and their cultures converged dating back to the 1800s.

The celebration includes the Battle of Flowers parade, opening the carnival Saturday with elaborate floats, decadent costumes, and loud music and dancing.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

TOPSHOT - A reveler of the Unidos da Tijuca samba school performs during the second night of Rio's Carnival at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on February 12, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Mauro PIMENTEL (Photo credit should read MAURO PIMENTEL/AFP/Getty Images)

TOPSHOT - A reveler of the Unidos da Tijuca samba school performs during the second night of Rio's Carnival at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on February 12, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Mauro PIMENTEL (Photo credit should read MAURO PIMENTEL/AFP/Getty Images)

The Rio de Janeiro Carnival is the biggest carnival in the world with more than two million people per day on the streets for the celebration that goes all the way back to the 1700s.

The big event includes revelers, massive floats, and schools participating in the festival starting Saturday and going through Ash Wednesday, with some events lasting an entire week. Balls and street parades take place for locals to participate.

Mardi Gras, New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 13: Zulu Tramps march in the Zulu Social Aid

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 13: Zulu Tramps march in the Zulu Social Aid

The weekend before Fat Tuesday, the eve of Lent, the streets New Orleans turn into a large spectacle of music, dance, and revelry with the slogan "Let the good times roll." The celebration dates all the way back to the 1700s and started to be embraced more broadly than just those with Catholic or French heritage.

Nice, France

 

The float of the carnival Queen is paraded through the crowd during the 134th Carnival parade in Nice, France, February 17, 2018. REUTERS/Jean-Pierre Amet - RC1EB4381400

The float of the carnival Queen is paraded through the crowd during the 134th Carnival parade in Nice, France, February 17, 2018. REUTERS/Jean-Pierre Amet - RC1EB4381400

Held on the French Riviera, the carnival in Nice, France is thought to be the site of the original carnival celebration, dating back to the 1200s.

Every year a special theme is chosen and there is a parade that includes masquerades, satirical floats and competitions.

Oruro, Bolivia

ORURO, BOLIVIA - FEBRUARY 25: Tobas' dancers perform as part of Oruro Carnival 2017 on February 25, 2017 in Oruro, Bolivia. Oruro Carnival is one of Bolivia's most important cultural traditions and has been proclamed as one of UNESCO's "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity". (Photo by Jose Luis Quintana/LatinContent/Getty Images)

ORURO, BOLIVIA - FEBRUARY 25: Tobas' dancers perform as part of Oruro Carnival 2017 on February 25, 2017 in Oruro, Bolivia. Oruro Carnival is one of Bolivia's most important cultural traditions and has been proclamed as one of UNESCO's "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity". (Photo by Jose Luis Quintana/LatinContent/Getty Images)

On the Saturday before Ash Wednesday, the quiet city of Oruro, Bolivia comes to life with folk dances, extravagant costumes, crafts, lively music, and up to 20 hours of continuous partying.

The celebration draws crowds of up to 400,000 people, merging Catholic and ancient pagan expressions.

Patras, Greece

Patras, GREECE: Participants of the most famous Greek carnival in the city of Patras, parade in the streets to mark the last day of the carnival 05 March 2006. Thousands of visitors arrived to take part in the celebrations in the city of Patras, which is the European Capital of Culture for the year 2006. AFP PHOTO/Louisa Gouliamaki (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Patras, GREECE: Participants of the most famous Greek carnival in the city of Patras, parade in the streets to mark the last day of the carnival 05 March 2006. Thousands of visitors arrived to take part in the celebrations in the city of Patras, which is the European Capital of Culture for the year 2006. AFP PHOTO/Louisa Gouliamaki (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)

The carnival of Patras, Greece includes balls, parades, a hidden treasure hunt, and children's carnival,  that concludes with a ritual burning of the carnival king at the St. Nikolaos Street pier in the harbor of Patras.

London, England

Revelers take part in the Notting Hill Carnival in London, Britain August 27, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls 

Revelers take part in the Notting Hill Carnival in London, Britain August 27, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls 

The Notting Hill Carnival takes place for two days in August but it has just as much of the revelry as the Fat Tuesday celebrations.

Martinique

Revelers pose during the Carnival parade in the streets of Fort-de-France on the French Caribbean island of Martinique, on February 10, 2013. The Carnaval started on February 9, 2013 and will run until Ash Wednesday on February 13, 2013 when Vaval, a giant papier-mache figure symbolizing the king of the carnival, is burned. AFP PHOTO/ JEAN-MICHEL ANDRE (Photo credit should read JEAN-MICHEL ANDRE/AFP/Getty Images)

Revelers pose during the Carnival parade in the streets of Fort-de-France on the French Caribbean island of Martinique, on February 10, 2013. The Carnaval started on February 9, 2013 and will run until Ash Wednesday on February 13, 2013 when Vaval, a giant papier-mache figure symbolizing the king of the carnival, is burned. AFP PHOTO/ JEAN-MICHEL ANDRE (Photo credit should read JEAN-MICHEL ANDRE/AFP/Getty Images)

The Martinique Carnival on the French Caribbean island was first celebrated by French Catholics in the 1700s. Today, the festival includes a merge of local culture and the European style carnivals as people of all ages dress in traditional costumes to compete for king and queen and to be carried in the annual parade.

Venice, Italy

VENICE, ITALY - FEBRUARY 04: People wearing carnival costumes pose in St. Mark square during the Flight of Angel on February 4, 2018 in Venice, Italy. The theme for the 2018 edition of Venice Carnival is 'Playing' and will run from 27 January to 13 February. (Photo by Awakening/Getty Images)

VENICE, ITALY - FEBRUARY 04: People wearing carnival costumes pose in St. Mark square during the Flight of Angel on February 4, 2018 in Venice, Italy. The theme for the 2018 edition of Venice Carnival is 'Playing' and will run from 27 January to 13 February. (Photo by Awakening/Getty Images)

The Venice, Italy Carnival is world-famous for its elaborate masks. The festival became official during the Renaissance, was banished in the 1700s and re-emerged in 1979, and today attracts up to 3 million tourists just for the celebration.

Sitges, Spain 

Revelers in their colorful costumes dance on their float during the children carnival parade in Sitges. (Photo by Matthias Oesterle/Corbis via Getty Images)

Revelers in their colorful costumes dance on their float during the children carnival parade in Sitges. (Photo by Matthias Oesterle/Corbis via Getty Images)

The Mediterranean city of Sitges, Spain holds a carnival with several different themed parades, including the Debauchery Parade and the Extermination Parade.

Trinidad

PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD - FEBRUARY 17: Masqueraders from the band Fantasy Carnival perform in the Queen's Park Savannah during the Parade of Bands as part of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival on February 17, 2015 in Port of Spain, Trinidad. (Photo by Sean Drakes/LatinContent/Getty Images)

PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD - FEBRUARY 17: Masqueraders from the band Fantasy Carnival perform in the Queen's Park Savannah during the Parade of Bands as part of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival on February 17, 2015 in Port of Spain, Trinidad. (Photo by Sean Drakes/LatinContent/Getty Images)

Introduced by French colonists, the festival of Lent includes a dance to the soundtrack of Calypso music, which mocked the French and includes colorful costumes, including stick-fighting and limbo competitions.